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Monday, May 20, 2019
Sextant

With regards to the June 2016 issue of Sea Breezes, Message from the Bridge – particularly the editor’s ultimate paragraph.

Having grown up in the sextant era of navigation and experienced the GP age, I think I prefer the former, certainly from the satisfaction gained when putting a position on the chart. As Mate, I used sight reduction tables for star positions and well remember that satisfactory feeling when six position lines would come within close proximity of one another. Even better the endorsement of landfall after an ocean passage which verified the accuracy of your past sights having endured, on occasions, the pursed lipped and silently raised eyebrow of the Master when visiting the bridge post dinner, and viewing the latest star position. The current and post landfall banter with the Third and Second Mate when the accuracy of the star versus the sun sights were analysed. That was what ‘Going to Sea’ was about.

I wonder in today’s ships do they take compass positions while coasting? Do they take azimuths and amplitudes? Is there a Compass Record Book? Are the magnetic and gyro compass headings recorded in the Log Book?

Recently, a very good friend, a retired navigator, took passage on a cruise ship with UK credentials and he couldn’t help but notice, when looking from a deck above the totally enclosed wheelhouse, that there was a standard compass and two bridge wing repeaters on the wheelhouse top. All three were inelegantly wrapped in canvas and firmly bound up with whammy. Why was it necessary to cover them? The standard and wing repeater compasses, in my day, were built weather proof and could be easily and readily used. My friend did not visit the bridge to ask the questions which I have just posed. Well he could if he was prepared to pay £75 to visit the bridge and other hidden places such as the galley and engine room! It did include a picture taken standing alongside the captain! In my day we welcomed passengers to the bridge and we were proud to talk to them of our profession. The thought of charging would have been laughable. Below is some very relevant and recent correspondence from the UK P&I Club.

Remember Traditional Navigation, Says UK P&I Club Vessels’ over-reliance on GPS as a navigational tool may be a danger Jamming of GPS signals and other interference is of widespread concern Alternative navigational methods should be used in tandem with GPS to ensure safety Use of GPS as a means of position fixing is now commonplace on vessels of all descriptions, and has made a significant contribution to the safety and accuracy of marine navigation. However, over-reliance on a single form of position fixing can become a danger in itself.

Continuing reports of alleged jamming of GPS signals, as well as the potential for other sources of signal interference, is of widespread concern to governments and to the shipping industry as a whole. This can cause particular problems for vessels which have come to rely exclusively on GPS for position fixing, and highlights the importance of vessels using the full range of navigational equipment available to them, as required by SOLAS and STCW regulations.

Even with the continual introduction of new technology and regulations for ship management, there remains a steady flow of reports of ship groundings and collisions, with many of these incidents being attributed to basic errors of navigation by the ships involved. Aside from the disastrous loss of life and pollution, these incidents can prove to be extremely financially burdensome, both to the ship owners and to the wider shipping community, due to increased insurance premiums.

The UK P&I Club encourages navigating officers to practice traditional methods of navigation, including celestial observation and keeping a proper look-out, as a failure to do so is often mentioned in marine casualty reports. Even with all the technological advances that have been made the sea remains as hostile a place as it has ever been. As such, UK P&I believes that the safe navigation of a ship to its destination cannot yet be achieved purely with technological resources, and still requires the presence of experienced and properly trained people with traditional seafaring skills.

DAVID WALKER
14 Court Road
Newton Ferrers, PL8 1DL
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more letters, see the latest edition of Sea Breezes Magazine
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